As the cloud computing paradigm continues to gain widespread acceptance, many organizations are jumping onto the cloud bandwagon, and migrating their existing IT infrastructure to private clouds. Storage infrastructure lies at the core of a private cloud, and there are certain key elements that CIOs and cloud architects should factor in while attempting to create private clouds.
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It is usually not feasible for organizations to jump straight into private cloud implementation due to the consolidation limitations of existing storage infrastructure and heterogeneous storage environments. Leading storage vendors such as EMC, NetApp and IBM have introduced storage virtualization appliances (EMC VPLEX, NetApp V-Series, and IBM XIV) that consolidate the storage from different vendors and present a common storage pool to the servers.
While choosing the storage consolidation appliance to create a private cloud, be well aware of the subset of storage features (such as thin provisioning, fully automated storage tiering (FAST) and FAST cache) specific to the storage vendor, which will be usable and required after consolidation of storage. Appliances that consolidate storage across geographies can also be considered if the data centers of the organization are at multiple locations. Storage consolidation appliances work with a limited number of storage systems, so during the exercise to create a private cloud, select a consolidation appliance capable of meeting current as well as future requirements.
On demand scalability
Any new storage system added into the environment should scale as per the future storage forecast without affecting the current environment. Once the creation of a private cloud is complete, storage capacity on the private cloud should be augmentable on demand, without affecting the environment.
Meeting big data challenges
Digital data is growing at an exponential rate today, and “big data” is the new buzzword in IT circles. Big data storage management is gaining attention because of its vast storage requirements and exponential growth. According to IDC, the amount of digital data created and replicated will surpass 1.8 zetabytes (1.8 trillion GB) in 2011 – having grown by a factor of nine in just five years. Many companies today offer cloud storage systems with big data management in mind. You should evaluate these companies when looking for integration of a big data storage management solution during the project to create a private cloud. Clustered storage systems such as EMC Isilon, NetApp Data ONTAP GX cluster and IBM SONAS are a better choice for big data storage management, since big data can grow to many petabytes of data within a single file system and these systems adhere to the primary tenets of private cloud storage viz., scalability, on-demand and elasticity.
Grading of storage
Before the move to create a private cloud, a storage grading template should be maintained, containing the current and future storage requirements of the various business applications. For example, ERP applications would require FC storage, while HR applications would require SATA storage. During storage consolidation, storage pools should be created according to the template. For example, you can look at Pool A which contains SSD storage, Pool B with FC storage and Pool C of SATA storage. Once you create a private cloud, future storage allocation requests should be satisfied from the appropriate pool depending on the application requirements, in order to maintain consistency and ease of allocation.
Integrated private cloud solutions
Many storage vendors offer integrated private cloud solutions today to help you create a private cloud. These solutions contain blade servers, FCoE switches and storage integrated in a rack. A cloud OS such as VMware vSphere comes preinstalled on the blades in some cases. These solutions should be considered if you intend to create a private cloud, as they are scalable and have been tested rigorously. These solutions have a single management console for managing all three components of the cloud — storage, network and compute. EMC VBlock is such an integrated private cloud solution.
Future storage needs
Before creating a private cloud, future plans of the organization in terms of introducing new applications in the environment should be discussed with the storage vendors to enable them to factor these requirements into the design of the current solution.
Thus, bear in mind that it is not possible to abruptly create a private cloud from existing infrastructure. To create a private cloud, the journey traverses physical to virtual transformation before one can get into stabilizing and operationalizing the private cloud. Hence while creating a private cloud, milestones should always be set and achieved in phases.